Mergers and Acquisitions, Mergers and Acquisitions, MSP

Why Some Top MSPs Aren’t Hooked on M&A

If you could sneak a peek at masterIT's financial statements, you'd likely be impressed. In fact, the managed services provider (MSP) would likely attract some potential buyers making strong offers for the Memphis, Tenn.-based company. But masterIT has no immediate plans to sell its business. Why's that?

The answer involves a so-called Hero's Journey -- and the leadership styles of masterIT CEO J. Michael Drake and President Gary Wiseman.

When Drake and Wiseman began building the IT services provider in 2006, the original strategy likely called for the company to explore a range of financing and M&A opportunities. While Wiseman is CTO, Drake is a former banker -- a finance guy who had high hopes for hardware as a service (HaaS) and several other emerging opportunities.

But somewhere during masterIT's business journey, I sense, the desire to pursue M&A deals apparently subsided -- especially during the U.S. financial crisis of 2008 and beyond.

Early Believer in Data Analysis

michael drake CEO J. Michael Drake
masterIT President Gary Wiseman

Instead, a "measure everything" strategy took hold. masterIT tracked all of its business and financial metrics -- then pursued automation strategies to improve on those metrics.

Read between the lines, and masterIT was ahead of the curve on the current business analytics, business intelligence and big data waves that are now spilling over into the IT channel.

The inflection points didn't end there. Instead of getting caught up in the cloud and mobility hype cycles, masterIT considered those offerings to be table stakes and went back to basics -- participating in peer groups like TruMethods (see related blog: Does Gary Pica Matter Anymore?). The group learning experience allowed masterIT to adopt best practices across its business.

Hero's Journey Continues

Drake continues to focus on that Hero's Journey mantra -- and his greater mission in life. Over time, Drake realized that his mission involves mentoring today's youth and the next generation of IT leaders. "You know culture is my passion -- recruit, train, retain," he says.

While I can't reveal masterIT's profit margins, let's just say the company is quite healthy. A potential buyer would likely need only a couple of weeks to perform due diligence on the business, Drake estimates. So, why don't Drake and Wiseman consider selling the MSP business?

Again, it comes back to that Hero's Journey mantra. For Drake and Wiseman, the journey isn't over. Both are in their early 50's, I believe. Drake says he has achieved life-work balance without exiting the business. And the Hero's Journey continues within his business and within his community.

Generally speaking, I think most MSPs consider an M&A deal to be a doorway to freedom. Through proper business management, it sounds like Drake and Wiseman have achieved that freedom -- without giving up control of masterIT.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.